Why Florida’s High School End of Course Exam Regime May Cause a New Surge in Drop Outs

Looking to curry favor with skeptical voters, Rick Scott’s been going around telling everybody that there won’t be any new tests for a while. He’s right, but the decision was in place before he became governor. In Florida high schools, the transition away from FCAT to course specific end-of-course exams was made during Charlie Crist’s governorship. Kids entering high school this year will be  required to pass  Algebra I, Biology, and  Geometry. Civics and United States History will have end-of-course exams, too, but they will not be graduation requirement. . Orlando Sentinel reporter Leslie Postal takes a look at where we are now:

The passing rate on Florida’s new biology and geometry exams — now must-pass tests for a high school diploma — would be under 60 percent if a proposed scoring system is adopted.

That would put success on the state’s newest end-of-course exams on par with its algebra 1 exam, which 58 percent of students passed last spring.

Local educators fear in coming years that thousands of high school students will fail one or more of the exams and then need remedial lessons before they retake and, hopefully, pass them ahead of their scheduled graduation.

Florida educators are working this fall to set passing scores for the biology and geometry tests, which were introduced to make sure students mastered key high school subjects.

Education Commissioner Pam Stewart is to make score recommendations to the State Board of Education, which has final say, before its Dec. 12 meeting.

So far, two panels made up of teachers, professors, business leaders and school board members have made suggestions.

The second panel, whose work is likely closer to what will be the final recommendation, suggested setting the biology and geometry scoring systems so that, based on this year’s data, the passing rates would be 53 percent on geometry and 59 percent on biology.

If those are adopted, Seminole County, where test scores routinely lead the state, could soon have a “backlog” of 5,000 students who haven’t passed some or all of the new exams, said Deborah Camilleri, coordinator of assessment and accountability.

“It will have a cumulative effect and impact on students who are trying to graduate from high school,” she said.

And high schools, she added, will be stretched thin trying to get them all into summer classes or other remedial programs to help them pass re-take exams.

Educators have long been questioning the wisdom of requiring passage of Algebra – let alone Geometry – with so many kids struggling with basic math when they arrive in high school. Elementary school kids are now seeing Algebra to the horror of countless parents. With 42 percent of kids failing the Algebra exam last year, its disturbing to realize these kids still have to pass Geometry, too.

Such test-based policies didn’t originate from professional educators, but from Florida’s republican-dominated political class who take their marching orders from Jeb Bush’s test corporation-funded foundations. Some solace can be found in the fact that a respected educator in Pam Stewart is making recommendations to the board and not a hack like Gerard Robinson. Unfortunately, Stewart is at-best (no pun), a steward.  The engine of the power vacuum is Bush who’s hubris never fails to amaze.

With the FCAT Writes debacle still on the minds of Florida voters, what will this high-stakes testing policy produce?  The FCAT created a sad class of kids labeled as failures and stashed in remedial reading classes until they passed. It also created a drop-out culture that guys like Bush successfully demagogued onto the bpassage acks of teachers.

So Rick Scott is doing what politicians do in taking credit for getting rid of FCAT. But a tsunami of failures on the end-of-course exams looms as the next drop-out virus.

NOTE: My original post inacurately listed Civics and US History test passage as a graduation requirement. Please see this for a more comprehensive look at grad requirements.


About Bob Sikes

A long time ago and a planet far, far away I was an athletic trainer for the New York Mets. I was blessed to be part of the now legendary 1986 World Series Championship. My late father told me that I'd one day be thankful I had that degree in teaching from Florida State University. He was right and I became twice blesses to become a teacher in the late 1990's. After dabbling with writing about the Mets and then politics, I settled on education.
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4 Responses to Why Florida’s High School End of Course Exam Regime May Cause a New Surge in Drop Outs

  1. As a former high school math/science teacher I have a hard time understanding why geometry would be considered critical. By the way, my own experience would suggest there will be a number of kids who will pass geometry that will never get algebra and vice versa.

  2. Oops. “pass” not [ass.

  3. Arien Collazo says:

    Im a high schooler who has failed the algerbra eoc 3 time all by 3 points every time and to be honest my class by that i mean the class of my year 60-70% of us failed it and most have or are droping out

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